Where to live in NYC area?


Hi all, I'm pretty close to moving to NYC area and was wondering what areas were good places to live (ideally buy a home) these days.  I will be working next to Grand Central and two areas that I had thought about were Jersey City (near one of the PATH stations) or perhaps up north in Westchester County and take the commuter trains in.  


Some of my parameters are

-house price between 400-700k

-I could live in a slightly dodgy area if it means a bit more space

-min of 2 bd and 1.5bath

-wife wants to have some amenities nearby, like some restaurants, shops, etc but doesn't need to be a full-blown neighborhood so to speak, just able to walk out to buy eggs and milk and maybe grab a cup of coffee without worrying about being mugged

-nightlife is not important, i.e. no need for lots of bars and clubs nearby

-the neighborhood preferably would be in an up and coming area or adjacent to one for reasons of appreciation.  Seems like in the last 2 years, the desirable areas have seen really intense appreciation and I would prefer to steer clear of those areas.

-no more than 1 hr door to door commute but ideally 45 min or less

-school district is not important

-very high preference in finding a townhome over a single level condo


Any comments appreciated.  And if this is all totally unrealistic it's because I am really not terribly familiar with the real estate market there and have done cursory internet research, through search engines such as Trulia, etc.  Thanks!

Jan 15, 14 7:07 pm

I usta live in Hackensack NJ in a converted attic - the New Jersey Transit station is nearby on Anderson street - 45 minutes? it may be possible

Jan 15, 14 7:16 pm

Have you considered Long Island? For that price range you could get a pretty decent sized home and the commute could be under 45 min on the LIRR.


Some places that are nice are some towns along the Port Washington Branch of the LIRR. Garden City is a little further out there but very nice. Once East Side Access opens it will increase property values.


Much closer to the city I would consider Forest Hills or even Astoria.

Jan 15, 14 9:48 pm

I'm not as privy to current goings-on in NYC area trends in housing and such, but I know what I like and don't like, aesthetically speaking.  We used to live there for a short while and relatives are a "reason" to go back every now and then.

I don't like Jersey City and Hoboken.  Convenient as they are, there are old and gritty areas nearby which will remind you how dumpy they used to be.

I like Bergen County, of which parts feel more buffered from the more tired New Jersey look, but NJ Transit (bus) is required to get into Manhattan.

I do not know Westchester that well.  I do know that people use trains for Westchester commutes.

I am partial to Queens.  I like Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, and I believe subway trains E and F go to Manhattan from that area.  Also, I like the northern part of Queens, such as Whitestone, Malba, Bayside, and Little Neck.  Queens and Staten Island, which is far, offer the most detached housing of NYC's boroughs.

As for Long Island, every sort of area and housing stock is contained there, and there is the LIRR into the city. 

Jan 15, 14 11:41 pm

rent should be about 33% of your monthly salary. that being said- if you can afford $700, you should be getting paid around $2100 after taxes, or (assuming a 25% tax bracket for federal and state) $2100*1.25 = $2625 / mo or $31,500 / year. This comes out to an hourly rate of just over $15 / hour (31,500 / 2080).

This is rather low for New York City. I don't know your work history or skills, but I wouldn't work for less than $18-20 / hour before taxes if you are just starting out. At this recommended rate, you would be making between $37,440 and $41,600 / year before taxes or between $28,080 and $31,200 / year respectively after taxes. This comes out to between $2,340 / month and  $2,600 / month after taxes. Using the above formula of rent = 33% of monthly income, you should be able to afford rent in New York City between $780 and  $860 / month respectively. For this price you can find a good place in Queens or Brooklyn. Look on craigslist. 

By adhering to the 33% rule, you will have plenty of money to spend on food, student loans, and most importantly... SAVINGS! :) 

Jan 16, 14 8:40 am

^ He's looking to purchase, not rent. For rentals, NYC landlords expect your household gross income to be at least 40x the monthly rent.

$700k might get you a decent 2-bedroom co-op or condo in some less-trendy parts of the city, but I'm guessing you'd have to go pretty far out to find a townhouse in that price range.

As for commuting, if you're working next door to Grand Central, Westchester would be your best bet, since Metro-North directly serves GCT from Westchester, parts of the Bronx, and Connecticut. Riverdale might be worth checking out... It's still technically within NYC, but has a nice, almost rural feel to it while still offering a relatively short commute and urban amenities. Other options within the city would be anything served by the 4, 5, 6, and 7 subway lines, as they also directly serve Grand Central. The E, F, and M trains are also nearby. Further north, Beacon and Cold Spring are also becoming popular with artists and hipsters who have been priced out of Brooklyn. 

I'd forget about New Jersey, as you'd have to make at least two transfers on the subway to get to GCT via PATH or NJ Transit, and that will quickly add a lot of time and hassle to your daily commute. Some Long Island Rail Road trains will eventually serve GCT once the East Side Access project is open in 2020 or so, but until then, LIRR takes you to Penn Station, where you'd have to backtrack to GCT via two subway lines.

MTA Subway Map

MTA Metro-North Commuter Rail Map

My advice would be to check online real estate listings to see what's out there in your price range, explore neighborhoods via Google Street View, and use Google Maps to determine how long of a commute you're willing to put up with. (Don't forget to check weekend service as well. Coming into the city for a Sunday shopping trip becomes a much bigger hassle if the train only runs every two hours and the last train leaves NYC at 7 PM.) Once you've settled on a neighborhood or community that looks good, find a reputable real estate agent that deals extensively with that area.

Jan 16, 14 9:17 am

My fiance and I bought our apartment for $600,000... and that was a deal. I don't know many places in New York where the mortgage will be that low...

Jan 16, 14 9:22 am

You should look on the 7 line in Queens. That will take you into GCT area quickly.

Jan 16, 14 10:01 am

Another thing about the LIRR is that you could take it to Woodside and transfer to the 7 Train to Grand Central. Only 2 stops away.

Jan 16, 14 12:03 pm

It's all about neighborhoods and taxes. If you are within the city you pay a hefty city income tax. Some LI property taxes are steep. I think it is wildly optimistic to buy real estate when starting a job, which is what it sounds like you are doing. 

Jan 16, 14 12:23 pm

job security is definitely a factor when making a decision to buy real estate... unfortunately architecture is a profession that does not offer that... 

Jan 16, 14 1:16 pm

American Gardens Building on W. 81st Street on the 11th floor

Jan 16, 14 1:46 pm

Is that where you live? I live next to the Ansonia. 

Jan 16, 14 1:48 pm

Id look into queens. Forest hills is nice but pricy.  You could also look into western Nassau. Most affordable area would probably be elmont, roosevelt, and Hempstead but not best areas.  Valley stream is a decent area and has a LI railroad stop. Merrick and east rockaway are pretty nice too. Probably about 40min commute.  Taxes are nuts.  Best bet is to move out west to Colorado or Arizona but if you must live in ny....just saying it gets old pretty quick.  Everyone I know who lives there is miserable and broke. Good luck. 

Jan 16, 14 2:11 pm

Thanks guys, all great comments.  

Cold Spring and Beacon sound very intriguing.  But I just found out I maybe be working a lot on-site in Flushing (even though main office would be next to GCT) the commute would be almost impossible.

Jersey City seems to get a range of opinion.  If I were close to one of the PATH trains, Google says I could take PATH to WTC, walk 10 min to Fulton St (no 4) to GCT.  Seems like a reasonable commute (35 min) with one transfer but if I am wrong please let me know.

Also, would a car commute from Riverdale to Flushing seem feasible?

Need to take a closer look at Riverdale and Forest Hills/ Astoria...

Jan 16, 14 2:38 pm

Car communte into manhattan... That's funny.

I spent 2 years living in Hoboken. I loved it. The typical inhabitant is a young professional 25-35. People tend to live there till they have a kid, then they move out to Jersey to get  house and yard. The area has been gentrified into a nice town with a nice commute into the city for work. You should be able to swing a decent condo/townhouse within your budget there, maybe even with a parking spot if you're lucky.

I would stay away from Jersey City unless you find a really nice place. Your money will go a little further there, but Hokoken's Washington street offers almost anything you really need / want out of local amenities, except a movie theater.

Jan 16, 14 2:51 pm

The 4 train doesn't serve Fulton Street; you'd need the 5 or 6.

If you're taking PATH, take it to 33rd Street and avoid the whole WTC / Fulton Street mess. From 33rd, transfer to an uptown B, D, F, or M train, go one stop to 42nd Street - Bryant Park, and then walk a couple blocks east to GCT. (Or if the weather is nice and you have time, just walk all the way from 33rd.) The transfer is much easier than at the WTC, and the larger IND trains are much less crowded than the Lexington Avenue lines.

Jan 16, 14 2:56 pm

Car commute could be from Riverdale into Flushing, not Manhattan.  Would involve driving through Bronx and then crossing Bronx Whitestone Bridge into Flushing.

I am assuming Bronx River Pkwy-->Cross Bronx Expressway (278)-->Hutchinson River Parkway (678)

Probably a bad idea but just want to make sure I have checked this off.

Jan 16, 14 4:11 pm

You just picked two out of three of the worst roads in NY. Driving commute is a fool's errand. 

Jan 16, 14 4:17 pm

jla-x: I live in Elmont, and its not as bad as you think. We get a bad reputation because we're so close to Queens. But in reality, its a nice community, with a melting pot of a population. One of the pluses though is a quick commute into the city. 45 minutes by train, 1.5 hrs by bus/subway, and a 40 minute drive into midtown (on off-peak travel times, traffic bumps it up to an hour, I'd say.)

If you want to live on Long Island, there is a lot to pick from here. Mostly, the housing stock is single family houses, but there are new and existing developments on the island that feature townhouses and Condos. A lot of these are 55+ communities though.

For a 45 minute commute, I would look at the towns along the border of Queens. Elmont, Valley Stream and Franklin Square are all in the middle of the island and more on the affordable side, with Elmont being the best option for finding a low priced house.

Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Great Neck and Glen Oaks are on the expensive side, as they are on the north shore (aka the gold coast) of Long Island. The further north you get, the more expensive the properties become. Also, all of these towns are incorporated villages, which are subject to higher taxes but usually have more accommodating services and local business.

Along the south shore, you have Lynbrook, Malverne, Woodmere, Lawrence-Cederhurst, Rockville Centre and Baldwin within the 45 minute commute time. All of these towns have easy access to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and feature well developed town centers with a variety of business, bars, restaurants and shops. Baldwin, L-C and Woodmere are more affordable, whereas Lynbrook, Malverne and RVC are almost untouchable. Malverne was recently voted one of the top 10 safest communities on LI and personally, I love RVC, if I could live there, I would.

Another community worth looking into is Westbury. Recently, they've been taking a lot of strides in making their community better. They've built several multi-use housing developments recently, and they've put a lot of effort into revitalizing their "main street" (Post Avenue). This included adding new shops, redoing the entire streetscape and fixing up the old movie theatre to accommodate live performances (the Space at Westbury). If home ownership isn't what you want, and close access to a train station is, than I'd definitely look there.  

Jan 17, 14 3:57 pm

I lived in elmont for years.  Lol.   i wonder if I know you?   

Jan 17, 14 4:50 pm

Can I ask what school you went to?  I lived by the race track.  Malverne has crazy high taxes.  

Jan 17, 14 4:53 pm

Used to take bus to 179th in Jamaica and hop on the f train.  Took about an hour. 

Jan 17, 14 4:55 pm

Long beach is a nice area too.  Pretty expensive though.  

Jan 17, 14 5:13 pm

I went to Sewanhaka, graduated in '04. I live over by Covert and the turnpike, its still good over here.

Jan 17, 14 10:45 pm

I went to elmont memorial.  I have  a couple friends from sewanhaka.  Overall it's a good area.  A little shady by the racetrack and around linden.  

Jan 17, 14 11:12 pm

Did get house robbed 3 times and shot at once also found a dead body on my front lawn (some poor dude that got robbed and killed for 50 bucks) but overall good area.  Lol. 

Jan 17, 14 11:31 pm

That was the 90s though when crime was high in ny.  Much lower now from what I hear. 

Jan 17, 14 11:33 pm

If you live anywhere in NJ, expect a minimum of a one hour commute with lots of transportation transfers.  There is no direct way to get from NJ to the Grand Central area without doing the 3/4 mile walk from PABT or Penn Station (one of which also forces you to endure the tourist hell that is Times Sq twice a day) OR transfer trains so many times that you will learn to tell trains apart by smell.

Jan 18, 14 12:22 pm

Yea, Idon't know what you're talking about. By the parkways and the track is shady still, but those are the areas closest to queens.

Jan 18, 14 2:15 pm

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